What's the Weirdest Thing We've Ever Been Asked For in Our Store?
Added over 4 years ago
It's a fact of life that we don't sell bread and milk at Kashgar, unless you can consider our spiritual pieces bread and milk for the soul.
What we do sell is over 2000 different handmade objects raging from $1 cotton-and-shell wedding bracelets given to guests for luck by Indian bride and grooms to antique Asian statuary priced well in the tens of thousands of dollars. Many of these items are one-off pieces with some very strange origins and uses too. Take the series of clay casts we obtained several years ago, each displaying the hand indentation of an Indian widow who had committed suttee, or ritual suicide, by throwing herself onto the funeral pyres of her deceased husband during the time of the Mughal Empire. Or the jawbone of a Japanese soldier headhunted by a Bontoc warrior during World War 2 in the northern Philippines and turned into a gong handle to grace the wall of his village home. Or the exquisite Chinese jade funerary cicada, inlaid with gold and silver wire and placed on the forehead of the recently deceased to aid him or her on their journey in the afterlife.
Funerary cicada placed on the forhead of the deceased to hasten their rebirth
Such an eclectic range of stock attracts an eclectic range of people too. Needless to say, most of our customers are delightful people who have at least some idea of what they want when they enter our store - a scented candle, a trinket of jewellery to give as a gift or a "discussion" piece to fill a blank space in their home. Or perhaps a new piece to augment their collection of tongue scrapers. Or maybe not...maybe they've just come in for a browse and a look around. And that's ok. We love surprising people and we love chatting about the origins and uses of our stuff. But we also attract a certain...well, stranger crowd. People who feel that they have a connection with some of our pieces from a former life. Nothing wrong with that per se, many people believe in reincarnation. But come on, what are the chances of your inner centurion actually once owning one of our pieces of Kashmiri pottery? Lets be reasonable here. Also, unless you can prove it, no I'm not going to give you that piece of pottery for free. Which reminds me of the lady who did a tour of entire shop, then returned to the front counter and burst into tears in from of me. When I asked her what was wrong, she pointed up and said that our things "reminded her of when she was...up there". I asked her if she meant upstairs. She said no, when she lived on her own planet, which was apparently and rather disconcertingly filled with bric-a-brac from other worlds.
This brings me to a whole other category of strangeness, people who ask for stuff that's pretty glaringly obvious we don't have. Fishing tackle, for example. I offered the gentleman in question the choice between the antique wooden iron-tipped harpoon and the giant Indonesian fish trap that we happened to have lying around at the time and he glared at me and walked out. And I'm also reminded of the time a woman walked in and asked if we sold beds. Nothing wrong with that - these days we do sell beds, lovely hand carved four-postered numbers from India. But at the time the question was asked, our store was exactly 20m square, barely large enough to swing a cat in. Beats me where she thought we were keeping them.
An image of the Foot of Buddha, considered sacred in some buddhist cultures and quite hard to come by
And then there are some of the stranger requests that we have been able to fill, to our great delight. Could we find an image of a pair of feet for an important naming ceremony? Actually not that strange a request for us - we often have images of feet in the store, either cast in brass, carved from stone or embroidered into beautiful wall hangings. The reason for this is that for many Asian cultures the very imprint made by the foot of a saint, enlightened one or god is considered sacred, even in effigy. The Burmese stitch beautifully detailed images of the feet of Buddha, sewn with 108 sacred images of ritual objects, while the Hindus revere images of the feet of Vishnu or Shiva, hand carved in plaques of pure white marble or set into silver amulets. One customer asked if we could supply a box to keep the ashes of her mother in because her father had her temporarily (yup...three years) stored in a Tupperware container out on the front porch - something she felt her mother would have been most unhappy about (we found a beautifully carved wooden box that was perfect to have a brass plaque attached). We provided a beautifully worked copper Tibetan canister to another customer who had travelled everywhere in life with her beloved brother and wanted to continue to do so after he had passed on. One day a dairy farmer down from the country asked if we had anything in our store "related to milking". We were able to show him several hand beaten brass milk pails and wooden butter churns, with a few antique Himalayan cow and yak bells thrown in for good measure. We have assisted customer requests for the outfitting of an S&M studio (a bench so-high for whipping people on and several Mexican crucifixes), tattoo implements (hand drawn books of tattoo illustrations from Burma and tattooing sticks with cast ends decorated in the form of protective demons), shackles for use in a movie dungeon scene (our antique prisoner shackles from Pakistan's Quetta prison and some Indian cattle hobbles were perfect), shipwreck-themed items for a maritime museum in Tasmania (we had at that time a 500 year old statue of Ganesh, retrieved from a ship lost off the coast of Goa. He was worn to the shape of a blob and heavily encrusted in barnacles) and one of our most unusual commissions, a pair of elephant spurs for a guy who collected animal-riding paraphernalia. But the strangest request of all was not so unusual in itself...it was for walking sticks. What was usual was that the request came from a seven year old boy, who since the age of four had been collecting and carving his own walking sticks. We showed him what we had (several beautiful old pieces from Nepal, including two lovely Tharu tribal shaman's sticks with metal tasselled ends) but it was obvious he thought they were rubbish, and he went off with his mum with nary a backward glance. Just goes to show, sometimes we just need to try a bit harder to please that special customer.
Aaliyah as Queen of the Damned. Costume designer Angus Strathie sourced much of the jewellery for the film from Kashgar, the majority antique silver and gold gilded pieces from Turkmanistan and Afghanistan
Will.i.am (from the Black Eyed Peas) as the teleporting John Wraith wears some of our American Indian jewellery in the film Wolverine. Our textiles and handicrafts, including a huge bamboo ladder, were also used in the film's prisoner-of-war scenes
Our jewellery in the Hindi wedding scene from Moulin Rouge: blink and you'll miss it though